Serving Larchmont Village, Hancock Park, and the Greater Wilshire neighborhoods of Los Angeles since 2011.

Ongoing Dispute Between Former Owner and New Owners of Village Pizzeria

Steve Cohen, founder of Village Pizzeria, served up his famous pizza at a Larchmont Village neighborhood block party in 2019.

The LA Times reported today on the ongoing dispute over the ownership of Village Pizzeria founder Steve Cohen’s extensive collection of memorabilia, which is now decorating the restaurant.

When Steve Cohen sold the Village Pizzeria in July 2022, he thought he was turning his beloved local brand over to former customers who would treasure the legacy he and his family established over the past 24 years on Larchmont. Unfortunately, that was not the case.

An optimistic Cohen in August 2021 with potential new owners from left: Guy Narduli, Bret Saxon, Cohen, Jeff Bowler and Frank Grillo. Photo courtesy of Amy Saxon published in the Larchmont Chronicle.

The new owners, actor Frank Grillo and producers Jeff Bowler and Bret Saxon, along with his wife Amy, refused to give Cohen his extensive collection of memorabilia decorating the restaurant. They also reneged on the consulting contract they’d offered him as part of the purchase agreement, Cohen told the Buzz.

Cohen told us he’s been working for more than a year to get his memorabilia back trying to avoid a long drawn out, expensive legal proceeding. Unfortunately for Cohen, he’s learned he’s not the only person with complaints against Bowler and Saxon.

“Bowler and Saxon have produced films together and were the subject of an investigation in The Times in November over allegations of fraud in lawsuits and proceedings that have dogged their productions,” reported the Times in its story today.

The Times investigation found that “over the last 13 years, Saxon and the companies he has controlled have faced various accusations of fraud, racketeering, and misappropriation of funds involving multiple films where he served as producer or executive producer, according to a Times review of court filings and interviews with investors and former associates. He settled several of these cases — others were dropped or dismissed — but in one he was found liable for fraud and breach of contract and was ordered to pay $2.25 million to one of his investors.”

In September, the Hollywood Reporter posted a similar story about lawsuits against Saxon’s company Wonderfilm.

“Investor Gridiron Productions alleges fraud in a lawsuit claiming Wonderfilm principals Bret Saxon and Jeff Bowler changed the terms of contracts to pay themselves exorbitant salaries on top of exaggerating the budget for the movie, with the goal of making it for less and pocketing the difference,” according to the Hollywood Reporter. “The lawsuit filed on Sept. 12 in California federal court mirrors claims made in other legal actions against Saxon.”

Looking back, Cohen told the Buzz and the Times reported, that he first became concerned about the transaction when one of the partners, Frank Grillo, breached the terms of the deal by posting on social media.

But Cohen told the Buzz he decided to keep going, hoping the deal would close as planned. Even now, despite all the acrimony, Cohen is in discussion with representatives of Saxon and Bowler hoping to settle the matter.

“I just want my stuff back,” said Cohen. “I want to move on and put all this behind me.”

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Patricia Lombard
Patricia Lombard
Patricia Lombard is the publisher of the Larchmont Buzz. Patty lives with her family in Fremont Place. She has been active in neighborhood issues since moving here in 1989. Her pictorial history, "Larchmont" for Arcadia Press is available at Chevalier's Books.

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